The numbers seeking to cross borders cannot be inexhaustible, there has to be pragmatic compromise

Dear Editor,

I refer to the sensitively presented SN editorial titled, “Nobody’s nation” (SN July 7).  The words I wish to share flow even easier when the issue centres on immigration.  Having lived that life (twice), there is no need to engage in much deep thinking.

Yes, the US president plays to visions of a more Eurocentric America that existed once before; the leader could care less if he fuels nativists’ fears and a simmering resentful voter base.  It is part of the programme, as he and the bigger Republic party thinkers could not have failed to envision the implications of the demographics involved and the heavy influence on future political power dynamics.  The Democrats know this, too.  It is more than the ignored statistics of taxes paid and needed agricultural workers; it is about the passions aroused by crime, loopholes, and funding for language skills and all the associated set asides favouring the foreign born.  There is little sober listening; only much overheated conversations.  This is at both the official and policymaking levels, and also at the grassroots.

Moreover, legal immigrants do have serious issues with the floods at the border; this is true of those who were at one time illegal themselves.  Nativists concerns are theirs, too.  I heard them before; still do.  Emotions aside, there are the grave matters of stretched services, overwhelmed budgets, and personal space.  Nobody talks much about this publicly, but there are misgivings about the calibre of the recent and newer versions of “your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses” pressing for entry by the fearsome barbarians at the gate.  And this originates from nonwhite immigrant communities.

As a quick aside, one of the reasons pointed to for the long decay and eventual collapse of Roman civilization was  it being overrun by immigrants of all stripes.  I take the liberty to push the language and posit that the hatreds (and that it is) of racial miscegenation is now transmuted to fears of the statistical miscegenation which can only dilute irreversibly the demographic pool to the detriment of the white race.  All those projections of looming white minority status do provoke a creeping horror of being besieged.

Chain migration (and illegal) is part of that burgeoning anxiety.  I myself am the direct source of some sixteen others who form part of the American fabric -the legal one.  And that goes back to just a single generation of immediate people.  Tangentially, I had a hand in another dozen.  These numbers multiply: try twenty years and twenty million other sponsors and the presences and pressures build relentlessly.  Add illegals and the pressure is at breaking point.  Now a new president and party has arrived; and a new solidified Supreme Court beckons. It is the perfect corrective storm.

Editor, something has to give here except that nothing is.  It is not happening in a comprehensive and constructive way; clinical and cold, and outrageous, yes; cerebral and objective, and progressive, no.  Not by either political side to the conflict, now stoked into the brinksmanship of intractable confrontations.  No group is willing to give, to back down; not with the stakes so high, and the temperature higher.

I believe I understand that the hard steps and the harder decisions have to be imbued with the humane.  As an immigrant twice over -over there then and over here now, I can speak to embedded nativists rancor and resistance.  Thus, I understand the white man’s fears (and the local ones too).  And when I look across the long porous borders of this country my own alarms sound.  To emphasize, as an immigrant I identify and empathize powerfully and profoundly with the plight of those crossing and coming here by whatever means.  But I ask: can this society of under 800,000 cope with an influx of 100,000 mouths to feed and hands seeking toil?  Can the warmth be generated given that their social and economic woes mirror those of ours of some fifty years ago?  Can Guyana absorb even 50,000 newcomers who will come?

As we cry out here in this corner of our own ills, the magnet of that promised oil bonanza around the chronological corner will intensify interest and numbers arriving.  Can we deal sensibly, bloodlessly with what is sure to follow across the borders?  Like the nativist Americans (and legal immigrants over there) under that presidential regime, do we as Guyanese think of how we will be responding to that potential invasion waiting in the wings?  Will we do so silently, when already I hear mutterings about Cubans and Chinese and Brazilians?  Then what about those from that other suffering neighbouring oil rich nation?  I say not.

The eternal quest of peripatetic caravans scouring for eternal economic relief is sure to collide then, as always, with the eternal resistance of those already settled and who are intimidated by the dread of human wave inundations. This is where I stand, whether in America or in Guyana: There has to be pragmatic compromise balancing hard numbers with needs and some room left for discretion and compassion.  The numbers cannot be inexhaustible or the compassion nonexistent.  Borders wherever they are must not be rendered borderless.  For then sovereignty, governance and the rule of law are reduced to the chimerical, whimsical, and the suicidal.  There has to be some workable acceptable control mechanism, no matter how imperfect. And it is not anywhere there.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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